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Archive for June, 2009

Catalog Images

June 30th, 2009 No comments

Drag-and-Drop Dirge
MouseMicrosoft_gdeA typical process for creating an auction catalog with images consists of 2 steps.
Step 1: Describe all the lots.
                  Lot#1 – Brown chair with garnet velvet piping.
                  Lot#2 – Large white cow with horns. 
                  Lot#3 – Two front-and-center tickets to Springsteen.
                  And so on. And so on.
Step 2: Take pictures of all the lots with a digital camera. 
                  Select all images for lot#1 and drag-and-drop the images onto lot#1.
                  Select all images for lot#2 and drag-and-drop the images onto lot#2.
                  Select all images for lot#3 and drag-and-drop the images onto lot#3.
                  And so on. And so on.

You load 16 pictures and what do you get? Another day older and carpal tunnel wrist. Needless to say, the lot-by-lot drag-and-drop process is time consuming and ripe for optimization.

Image as you Go-Go
One alternative to the post-describing drag-and-drop dirge is to take pictures as you describe instead of after. You can accomplish this with a webcam or a linked video camera (for higher image resolution). Start by going to Auction Lots & Preview and then click on the Detailed Entry button. Now go to the Images tab and click the Add From Capture Device button. This will start an Active Video Monitor form which allows you to rapidly capture pictures as you catalog. So, type in your Lead and description for your item, then click on the Images tab and click that same button again to take a picture. You can monitor the video feed from the Active Video Monitor (which you can drag where you want) and rapidly add multiple pictures to each lot. If your computer’s monitor is higher resolution (1280×1024 or larger) try clicking the Linked button at the bottom left. This will open up a second linked form that allows you to view the Images tab at the same time as you view the Information tab in the first form. Heck, if you need to dynamically add expenses to each lot as you catalog, click that Linked button again. Now you can view the Information, Images, & Expenses without switching back and forth between tabs. This makes for very fast, very detailed cataloging in real time with no tab-toggling. We call this Productivity with a Capital P!

Barcode Wizardry
Bar code cowLet’s assume that you are dealing with a pasture full of larger items that don’t work well trying to capture the image as you describe, so you want yet a different alternative to the drag-and-drop dirge. To start, we need barcoded labels. Lucky for us, Auction Flex has the built in capability to print lot labels with barcodes. So as you describe the lots you stick a lot label on each item. When you’re done describing, every lot is tagged with a matching barcoded label. Here’s where the wizardry starts: Auction Flex can actually read those barcode labels from a picture! So, here’s the process: Start each lot by taking a relatively close-up picture of the lot label. Then, take as many pictures of the lot as you want. Now, with the next lot, again start with a picture of the barcoded lot label, then take pictures of the lot. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Now, open Auction Lots & Preview and go to the Advanced tab. Click the Import Images button, select the appropriate options and Auction Flex will read the barcodes from your images and automatically assign the images to the appropriate lots. Every camera is different and it takes a little practice, but you can achieve 80%+ accuracy using this process. For more information on this check the Auction Flex help file.

Non-Barcode Non-Wizardry
You can use the same Image Import form described above to rapidly manually assign lot numbers to images. Instead of drag-and-dropping the images to each lot, you can simply scroll down a thumbnailed grid of your images and enter their appropriate lot#’s in bulk. Then, when you get to the bottom of your list you simply click the import images button to import all the images to the assigned lot#’s. While this method is not as fancy as reading barcodes from images, it is still faster than the lot-by-lot drag-and-drop method.

Voilà not Wallah
My goal is to give you the best tools I can to help you conduct business as efficiently as possible. Only you can decide which method works best in conjunction with your in-house processes but hopefully I’ve given you a few ideas that have started your gears turning.

These instructions are applicable to Auction Flex version 6.10. If you don’t have some of the buttons or options I’ve mentioned, you’re probably on an older version of Auction Flex and need to upgrade.

Categories: Auctions, Computers, Software Tags:

Bing.com

June 19th, 2009 No comments
bing

bing

Microsoft released their new search engine bing.com recently and I have to say, I’m impressed. If you search bing.com for auction software we are the first natural listing. We can’t argue with those results. On other searches bing.com seems to compete well against google.com in terms of returning relevant results. In some categories I dare say bing has google beat.

It’s been some time since anyone put up even a meager challenge to Google’s search engine dominance. If Microsoft can capture even 30% of the market that will make a huge dent in Google’s revenue. Better yet, the competition will mean a better consumer experience as these 2 giants battle for our eyeballs.

Categories: Uncategorized Tags:

Uninterruptible Power Supplies (UPS)

June 1st, 2009 No comments

NOT the men in brown
UPS stands for uninterruptible power supply. A UPS is a battery / inverter combo that will instantly provide power to plugged-in devices in the event of a power anomoly. I say anomoly because a UPS protects you from brown-outs, flickers, sags, surges, AND outages. The power coming into your office isn’t necessarily “clean” but that is where the UPS steps in and cleans it up for you.

But I have a laptop
A laptop, by virtue of its internal battery, essentially has a built-in UPS. There is a difference, however, between a UPS and a laptop battery. A UPS is designed to protect in the event of a power surge or other damaging anomaly. A laptop battery does not offer this same protection. I’m not recommending a UPS for a laptop but I would recommend, at the minimum, a quality surge protector. Hey! Get out of that Wal-Mart bargain bin. A quality surge protectors costs more than 5 bucks! In all seriousness though; a power strip and a surge protector are not the same thing.

Tell me another story, Grandpa
In another life I worked at a company as the network administrator (okay, computer geek). I was very insistent that all computers and network equipment have battery backups. I hand-picked an especially nice, heavy-duty UPS for the main file server. On a fateful Wednesday afternoon, 2 electricians were in the building changing wiring in the main office panel. These 2 electricians managed to cross the server’s dedicated circuit with a 220 volt loop. Needless to say this was very, very bad. Luckily, the UPS did what it was designed to do and sacrificed itself. The server was completely untouched!  A quick swap to another UPS and within 15 minutes the company was back up and running. I did have a few choice words for those electricians though.

Switches and routers and hubs, oh my!
If you are a careful reader you noticed above that I mentioned network equipment having a UPS too. Remember that power issues don’t just affect computers – they affect the entire network. You should plug ALL of your network equipment into a UPS.  This means network switches, routers, hubs, etc.

Battery backup vs surge only
Most UPS’s will have two sets of outlets. One set is labeled Battery Backup, the other set is labeled Surge Only. The battery backup side will power your equipment in the event of a power issue. The surge only side is where you want to plug in other devices that don’t need the battery backup but still need protection. Think printers, calculators, phones, lava lamps, etc.

What about printers?
You can plug inkjet printers into your battery backup if you need to print during a power outage but NEVER, EVER plug laser printers into the battery backup side of a UPS. They will magically transform your UPS into an IPS – an Interruptible Power Supply. This is because a laser printer draws more power than a UPS can provide. An overloaded UPS (because of your laser printer), in a power outage will instantly fail and fill the air with what amounts to a UPS crying – EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE – and there will be a pretty, blinking red light too.

Your UPS is not on Viagra!
The average UPS can only provide power to run your desktop computer and monitor for 5 to 15 minutes. A UPS is going to provide your staff enough time to gracefully shutdown their computer in the event of an extended outage. A UPS is NOT a solution for a long-term power failure (you will have to invest in a generator if that is a concern). But even if you have a generator, you still need a UPS on each desktop computer and all your network equipment.

Mission critical
If you conduct computerized auctions without UPS’s you are asking for problems on auction day. Please, please, please if you don’t have a UPS for every single computer in your office and all your network equipment, don’t let another auction go by without adding this layer of defense.

My preferred brand of UPS is APC which you can purchase from Office Depot, Staples, Sams Club, etc.

Categories: Computers Tags: